Getting wet

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Asia » Sri Lanka » Southern Province » Unawatuna
November 2nd 2012
Published: November 8th 2012
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From the Cabanas we moved to the diving centre. We used our trusty little tuktuk driver for the last time, i'm sure he was sad to see us go! The dive centre was a much better location, being smack bang in the middle of the beach. Planty was relieved that you couldn't hear the train from our room and was expectant of a good nights sleep....(until “Riddim” bar next door started blasting out the tunes until 5am... The room was basic and had a strong lingering smell of varnish. The view from the balcony was amazing (if you look past the massive tree) and it was nice to be able to walk down the beach to where the main restaurants were situated.

We were shown to our room by Hans, the site owner, he was a character to say the least! He launched into a full blown rant about the dive shop next door, how the owner used to be his best friend but then things turned sour and he's wrecked the dive centre on several occasions; poured tar all over it and stole things. How the police are corrupt so he struggled to stabilise the situation so now he has a security guard from 6pm to 6am and CCTV all over the shop. We looked from the four infra red cameras on our balcony to each other in amazement, I was half expecting Planty to congratulate me on another good choice and then sit watching our belonging for the next six days, but we locked our valuables up and headed out for lunch.

We took an interest in the feud over the next few days and couldn't quite work it out. Both dive shops have the same name, the websites are identical except for one has dive, the other diving in the title, the staff seemed to mingle, some wear the same uniform and when we headed to the pool we were using to learn skills, our tuk tuk driver was definitely from the rival shop! Furthermore we were reminded by our diving instructor that our stuff should be perfectly safe as the shop downstairs was full of dive equipment! We decided to take the drama with a pinch of salt and humorously observe the politics, except when we spent the whole night in a power cut and Planty went down and had to wake the security guard to unsuccessfully try and fix it. That wasn't funny.

Our diving instructor, Nick, was far more chilled out then Hans, we decided to bomb through all the theory and then get on with diving. The weather was a little more unsettled then it had been previously and we were hoping it may clear up towards the end. Our first full day was spent in the school room learning about buoyancy, nitrogen narcosis and tidal patterns. We both had huge textbooks with questions that corresponded to a 5 part DVD. Diving was a lot more technical then I imagined and every other sentence emphasised the importance of remembering a manoeuvre so you didn't die. We powered through the questions, but didn't pay much attention to the DVD if I’m honest, it was horrendous! It was like an American Wetherspoons training video. Dramatic, cheesy and fake. It was all “PADI high fives” and “diving is fun”, if we were traumatised by all the ways diving can kill you, we were now concerned for our mental stability too!

The theory still managed to take up most of the day, it was like being back at school but I quite enjoyed it if I’m honest, it was like a GCSE science paper, all easy biology with some physics and maths thrown in. We worked through conversion tables and dive planners that are used to avoid decompression sickness when doing multiple dives. I did wonder how on earth we were supposed to memorise so much info in such a short space. Everything seemed so complicated, from the procedures, to the equipment. However, day two, we put all this into practice in a confined environment (i.e. a pool) the dive centre didn't have one as they had previously just used the sea, but I think at Nicks insistence we found one. After a few tuktuk journeys, we and our equipment made it to a slightly desolate looking hotel. Our pool rivalled those in India for cleanliness and I was happy to let Nick try it out first! We set up our equipment and jumped in! Everything sort of fell into place, and my worries about forgetting everything were hushed. Diving in general was much harder then I anticipated, however everything was much easier then I had decided the day before. I was eager to get into the sea! Half way through we got out for a break, we noticed Planty had taken a chunk out of his foot and it was bleeding heavily. We asked a member of the hotel staff for a first aid kit which was met with vacant looks, finally one got on his bike and set out for some bandages and plasters. We joked about the dangers of diving and how it wasn't the sharks you had to look out for, I couldn’t wait to see what damage we could do in the sea! Staff were summoned to check the pool and see if they could see where Planty had hurt his foot. The manager hadn’t been to happy with us going in with the tanks on because he didn’t want tiles to be broken, so we waited to see if we were to be accused. For a desolate hotel there seemed a lot of staff, they were out in force to find the offending tile, but they came back non conclusive to the problem. At this point I decided I needed a wee, after discussing how the idea that you should wee in your wetsuit is pretty skanky as your then sat in urine for a few hours I asked a member of staff to direct me to the toilets. They happened to be on the other side of a huge reception hall decked out for a wedding. I trapesed through, dripping water as I went, and on my return noticed someone had been appointed the job of mopping the floor after me... oops!

After lunch we were back to the schoolroom to do our final exams while the info was fresh in our minds. We got 100% on the first and 92% on the second, we were feeling pretty proud and once again couldn’t wait to get in the sea! That morning when we left to do our confined a couple had arrived, they were clad in dive brands, even down to the suitcase they had brought, “dive geeks” where my initial thoughts and then promptly forgot about them. Whilst we were studying they returned, we were introduced to the husband, namely Serge as a PADI course director, a man with over 20,000 dives totalling a total time of 5 years that he has spent underwater. With stats like that I suppose he has a right to be slightly complacent, however I didn’t appreciate him calling us “dive puppies”.

That night it rained heavily, there was a huge storm and I was poorly, I’m not sure what it was but I couldn't even hold water down. Planty grabbed a dinner of pringles and biscuits from the local shop and we got a really early night, still hopeful for diving the next day.

We were up early for our diving, I still didn't feel great but the weather had brightened considerably. However some of the guys had been out and reported the visibility to be rubbish. It was decided to cross our fingers and toes for the following day when we would be diving regardless, if our gamble paid off the dive would be much more enjoyable. With the day free we headed down the beach for some food and some sunning. That evening we had agreed to go for dinner with Nick as we knew the area better then him. It was around lunchtime he dropped the “Its Serg's last night how do you feel about them joining us” bomb. We agreed, after all if it was traumatic it was just something to blog about! We decided to take him to Thaproban, it had become our favourite restaurant and a few day earlier we had treated ourselves to the best lobster I have ever had (granted it was the first but Planty agreed!) It was split between us and was massive and meaty! We thought even a PADI celebrity would be impressed with it, as it was right on the beach, fairly classy and our new friend (obviously after we agreed to the lobster we were friends!) the scary one eyed waiter was really hospitable! When we met them Nick stated that Serg had a driver and wanted to go to Galle for dinner, we had to get a tuktuk as would not all fit in the car, so it was decided the boys would go in the tuk and I would go in the car. I sat making conversation, primarily regarding diving, they were going on to the Maldives after Sri Lanka, and we may dive again in Thailand. He emphasised how lucky we are having Nick to ourselves and how in other dive schools we would have to pay double for private tuition. I admit I was relieved when we arrived in Galle and I could hide behind Planty a little! None of us had any idea where we were going, We had limited knowledge of Galle, having only visited the jewellery shop, I knew there were some amazing restaurants there, but not where they were! We chose one and it was only after we sat down we remembered about the lack of alcohol in the fort walls! We ordered, Serg brutalised the waiter over his minestrone soup as he didn't want it spicy and he “knows minestrone and its not spicy”, his main also followed a similar script but his sense of humour showed a little, being from Paris I hadn't expected him to have one! The food was pants! Luckily I still didn't feel great and had no appetite. It was probably the worst meal I had in Sri Lanka. Serg dominated the conversation with his diving exploits. He showed us pictures where he was wearing 7 tanks of air and using something called a “rebreather” which recycles the air in system meaning you can stay down for longer and you don't release any bubbles so can get closer to the fish.

Afterwards we walked back to the car, Planty managed to ask Serg a question about his diving school which sorted his conversation for the duration of the walk, I just wandered along pretending to listen. as we neared their car I made the excuse that we needed a cash machine so should go in the tuk tuk. I was all dive conversed out! Nick needed to come with us so he could smoke and Planty just avoided being asked! They set off in their AC car and we squeezed into a tuktuk. We had decided to go for a few drinks in Unawatuna so were meeting them at the dive centre. The tuk journey was a hundred times more exciting then being in the car. Drivers in general are much more relaxed in Sri Lanka then previous countries, except for the bus drivers! They hurtle along at breakneck speeds, overtake through the narrowest of spaces causing the tuk tuks to swerve and slam on. We were glad to make it back in one piece! We had decided to take them to “happy banana” being a Friday it would probably be lively and we thought it would be a good contrast to Galle. Turns out it was lively! All the tables and chairs on the beach were decked in white and decorated with Jamesons bottles with lights in them. We later found out we had crashed a party. A group of 70 Hebrew people were travelling round Sri Lanka and having Jamesons parties (as you do) they were all supposed to be over 25, but it felt like Southport on a Thursday night and they were very drunk and very loud! I couldn’t believe the situation we were in! We had crashed a Hebrew Jamesons party in Sri Lanka with a French PADI course director. Its one of those moments you cannot dream up! I sat chatting to Serg's wife Claire, she came from Limoges which is where my parents house is and she had travelled India 10 years ago so we talked about how that’s changed, There were local lads dancing with fire on the beach and giving tourists a go (no Planty didn’t partake!) we only had a couple of drinks, well I was on soft drinks, before heading back, we passed a guy throwing up and a dog doing a poo, slightly tarnishing the beauty of Unawatuna beach. We agreed the next day would be awesome for diving, the sky was incredibly clear, with no clouds. The lack of light and pollution made the stars look amazing, ive never seen so many before (obviously we made sure we were standing in neither sick or poo when we looked up) seriously though it was beautiful! ooh and I saw a shooting star, but it was like something burning up in the atmosphere, not a dying star because it was really bright, that was cool!

Serg had dismissed his driver for the night so they went to find a tuk tuk. Although he had scared me a little and called me a puppy, he was allright, he's passionate about what he does and although most of the conversation went over my head he was in his element! The next day Nick told us they had ended up in a tuk tuk belonging to the enemy next door, the driver had been partying at “Riddim bar” but agreed to take them, I got the impression their ride was even more hair raising then ours! I can also confirm the party next door didn’t stop on account of the tuk tuk driver leaving, it actually continued to around 5am (most nights) according to Planty... luckily i'm a heavy sleeper!

Today was the day we were to get wet! After a night of listening to dive talk we were more than ready to get out into the sea! We piled our gear into the boat and set off to the dive site. As soon as the engine cut we both began to feel queasy, we got into the water as soon as possible and began our descent. Almost immediately my ears began to hurt, it was unbearable and whatever I did I couldn't equalise them, it was pretty shambolic and somehow we all ended up floating back to the surface, Planty was having trouble with one of his but both of mine were agonising! It was decided I should go down with Nick and Planty with the divemaster, we just took it really slow and before I knew it we hit the bottom! I was ecstatic, I had done it. Nick signalled to me the dive was finished and we were to go up. I signalled back I was ok, we had only just made it and I didn’t want to go straight back up. He indicated that Planty wasn’t there and I looked around. It was pretty murky to say the least and I couldn’t see them anywhere, bitterly disappointed I agreed to go up. Planty had more trouble with his ear, he was also still feeling seasick. I was ok until he started throwing up and I got a waft of the tomato crisps he had for breakfast, which nearly set me off, that would have been comical, both of us sat in the sea throwing up! We decided to abandon diving, we still had three to fit in and were leaving the next day, for the first time I was worried we were not going to complete our PADI's.

When we had recovered we went for lunch, we chose a restaurant at the far end of the beach we knew was cheap and cheerful. The walls are brightly decorated by paintings from children affected by the 2004 tsunami, unfortunately last year the government decided many of the structures on the beach are illegal and sent in diggers to rip down the offending structures. All this has done is make some of the bars and restaurants look like they've just been hit by a tsunami, the one we ate in was surrounded by rubble and part of the concrete floor now consists of sandbags. Lunch wasn’t amazing, I ordered a jaffle which is like a Sri Lankan toastie, when it came it was wrong and less like a toastie then I had envisaged. On the whole we were having a pretty lousy day, walking back it got a lot worse! We walked back along the beach and headed past some rocks that the sea comes right into, normally we just get a little wet round our feet but I was unfortunate enough to get knocked over by a big wave, I stood, dripping wet as Planty shouted back to hurry so I didn't get hit again. I could tell he hadn't realised our phones were in my bag. I hurried and as soon as I was past the rocks I shrilly squealed “our phones” realisation dawned over his face and he grabbed them off me. They were dripping wet. I turned my bag upside down and water trickled out. He tried them and they were both off, some guys sat on the rocks were shouting “GET THE BATTERIES OUT” we did and raced back to try and dry them. We were so caught up I barely batted an eyelid at the elephant casually ambling along the beach. Back at the dive centre I ignored everyone and ran up to get them dry, I left them abit then tried mine, that was probably what killed it, it went to the first screen but it wasn’t healthy, we bought some rice and put them in that to see if it helped. They spent 6 days in there all together, we checked them periodically, Plantys made a partial recovery, mine was dead!

So we had had a pretty rubbish day, it was my worst so far travelling. Diving was a disaster, we were both ill, lunch was pants and I killed our phones and got bashed against some rocks! We had sworn we were not drinking to be in full health for diving the next day however the general consensus was beer makes everything better! We took Nick to Thaproban, they lay all their fresh seafood out in a “seafood market” and you choose what you want and how you want it. The boys wiped them out of calamari for starters then Nick had snapper, Planty the crab. He had asked how much meat was on them and the waiter gave him a look that said “haha absolutely none meaning I can make you get double” which is exactly what he did. Plus if the waiter turns round and states that because your having two crabs you can have another on him making it three then you know your only eating shells! I played it safe with a tuna steak, partly because its about £2.80 with chips and salad and partly because its really really good! They had a few beers, I stuck to the lime sodas, afterwards we went to another bar for a few drinks, we contemplated “Riddim” but that would be fraternising with the enemy and we couldn’t let that slip to Herr Hans! I’m pretty sure the bar we went to was also owned by a dive shop but oh well, I had a cosmopolitan, I didn’t really feel like drinking so I thought if I have a cocktail it wont be too bad....... it burned when I drank it, I think it was vodka mixed with a little grenedine or something to make it pink! The toilets were pretty dodgy too, you went out the back of a bar, across a path and into what looked like the back entrance of a hotel. Then at a poster of uncle sam (not telling you that your country needs you but pointing out the establishments view on sand) turn right, past the room with the sleeping Sri Lankan man and down a dingy corridor. I only went once! We couldn’t wait for the day to be over and I was anxious about the next day, where I had planned a leisurely checkout and trip to Hikkaduwa around lunchtime we now had three dives to fit in, we drifted off to sleep hoping for a better day and listening to the base of the current UK dance hits courtesy of Riddim bar!

So our last chance for diving, we had the weather but Planty was rougher than rough! Everything that could be wrong was wrong, I didn’t know what would happen, if he couldn’t dive, I probably wouldn’t either and all that money and effort would have been in vain! He got up and we made it down to find the dive centre full of people! There was a snooty guy and his ginger kid, action man and his nonchalant girlfriend and a chubby pale dutch man in turquoise speedos stood with his hands on his hips like he was after a modelling contract, it was pretty grotesque, there should be rules about speedos! There was so much going on Nick said he would get all of them out and then we would get going. we were setting up our BCDs (buoyancy control devices) but noticed Planty didn’t have a full tank of air, we tried a couple but they were no good. The boat full of crazy foreigners had taken all the full ones and we were going to have to wait abit. So we decided to nip down the road for some bananas. The walk was hot and the fruit shop further away then I had imagined, it was an awesome little shop, not really a building, more a tarpaulin cave, the front was lined with hanging bananas and when you venture in every surface is covered in fruit, there was mango, star fruit, melon, pineapple, coconut, papaya, just everything. He asked how many bananas we wanted, we said 10, he cut off nearer 20. it came to 30p. He also cut open some lychees and gave us them to eat. They were so nice and really refreshing in the hot sun. all fruit tastes better here, I don’t think i'll be able to look at a banana when we return home! We walked back along the beach, pretty pleased with our purchase, there were some locals pushing a boat up the shore and they shouted to Planty for help, he obliged and I would have but someone had to hold the bananas! When we returned to the dive centre they were all set to go. We ate a few bananas and Planty declared himself much better, so this was it! We got out there and slowly descended, my ears hurt every couple of feet but I was able to equalise them. We got down and did some of the skills that are required to pass the course. These involved kneeling on the bottom and taking your mask off/ loosing your regulator etc. there was a minor panic when Planty nearly knelt on a blue spotted stingray hiding in the sand but apart from a really inquisitive fish that was it for wildlife. We did the skills then swam off. We headed over a wreck which was pretty cool! I’m not sure of the history or anything but the dive site is known as lord nelson wreck (note, it was a cargo ship carrying cement that sank in 2000). It was in great condition and pretty impressive for a first dive! We saw some surgon fish, some butterfly fish, and angel fish and a puffer fish, clams and coral but it was otherwise quite murky and the visibility wasn’t amazing, over the wreck there were some quite strong currents so we veered off course slightly to calmer waters. When we surfaced we were right round the other side of a rocky outcrop to our boat, my tank was quite high and I was struggling to swim a little on the surface so Nick pulled me a little, I heard Planty shout and saw a huge wave coming towards us, I got Nicks attention and at that point it hit, it was probably one of the scariest situations I have been in, the wave dragged me for a few meters and I couldn’t breathe, when I found the surface I was quite far from the others, I surfaced just in time to hear Nick shout “REGS IN” and get my reg in before the next wave hit. Nick lost his mask but apart from that we were all ok. I was shaking as we got back on the boat.

Pretty soon we were back in the water, we just couldn't handle being on the stationary boat! We set off on our next dive fairly promptly, it was no where near as good as the first, the coral was dead and grimy and the visibility wasn’t great, we saw similar fish to the first time, there was a massive starfish which was cool, I didn’t even know they got that big! We completed our second dive problem free and were feeling quite good after it. We went to a roti shop for a late lunch, rotis are basically wraps and are cheap and common in Sri Lanka, I think we expected a little more from them as when we ordered a chicken one it was basically chicken in a pancake, however with the prospects of seasickness it was probably best we ate bland food!

After a quick relax we were back in our gear and out, at first we were just doing one final skill in the shallow waters off the beach, it was something we were supposed to have done in our confined but the pool was too shallow. Apparently we were the first to have done it in the pool, previous years the confined was in the patch of sea we were using, how they managed I don't know! We ended up having to walk back along the bay as we had drifted halfway round Unawatuna beach! That done we headed out for our final dive. By now the sun was setting and visibility was pants, we had taken the camera down in the case we bought in Dubai but conditions were rubbish. We had a swim round, didn't really see anything noteworthy and practised some final skills. I was pretty impressed with how we could control our buoyancy through breathing, I know a lot of marine life do it, fish with their swim bladders and whales diving to depth but I had underestimated the human lung capacity, I spent much of the dive thinking geeky thoughts!

When we surfaced I was so relieved we had done it! On returning to base we filled in our log books, got pictures taken for our PADI cards (mine was horrific! I had mask marks and scratty hair!) we collected our belongings and said our goodbyes! We grabbed a tuktuk to Hikkaduwa, the sun was just setting, we were soaking wet and salty but were ecstatic and chatted about diving for the whole journey, our driver must have thought we were mad! Luckily though after all the ups and downs we ended on a high and we both loved diving and couldn’t wait to do it again!

Planty's Version

With our time spent at the Rockside Cabana's over, our tuk tuk driver took us to the Unawatuna Diving Centre which is only 2 minutes further along the road, and is owned by the husband of the owner from the Rockside. Due to the season in Sri Lanka only just starting, we were the first customers of the dive centre and the first to be staying in the apartments above. I was looking forward to staying there because it was right on the beach and all the best places to eat and drink in Unawatuna are too situated very handily on the beach too, which means I simply had to waddle along the sand to get back to our apartment after scoffing our faces with cheap food and filling our bellies with even cheaper beer.

We arrived at the diving centre and were pleasantly greeted by one of the local lads who works there, and the very German owner who seemed to forget about 1918, 1945, 1966 and 2001 as he also seemed happy to see us. The owner then showed us to our room and decided we would like to hear how he has been having problems with the dive centre next door who have been stealing his equipment and vandalising the place, and that's why the place is wired up with more CCTV camera's than Fort Knox. Not only that, but he has hired a security guard to sit downstairs and keep watch from 6pm-6am, while every other member of staff goes home, not the most comforting piece of news I've ever heard.

Shortly after we got settled, we headed down the beach for lunch and came back to the diving centre to get our info packs and PADI OWD (open water dive) books, and took a few hours to flick through them to see what we would be learning over the next few days. I was sort of dreading doing the course if we were going to be taught by our German nut-job host, I thought there may end up being some sort of communication barrier, or he would divulge further into his personal problems with the place next door. Thankfully, our instructor was English, and had just been flown in from the UK to manage the centre for 6 months, and on first impressions, he seemed to be a really nice guy, apart from him being a southerner, but some people can't help these things. He briefed us on what the next few days would involve, the next morning we would be working through some DVD’s and have to answer relevant questions about safety, dive gear, what to do if your eaten by a shark etc, etc, all the boring stuff really.

After the usual routine of shower, change, eat, drink, sleep, we got up pretty handy and started working through the book's in true Lotty and Planty style, we were the ultimate team, While Lotty found the answers, I wrote them down and let her copy me, like the true gentleman that I am. Successfully completing the questions, we had the rest of the day to ourselves, as we had nowhere to do our confined diving training, a pretty integral part of the course, but it seemed our paranoid German owner had spent far too much time sorting out CCTV and forgot to arrange for us to use a pool.

So, imagine you're back at college or university (if you went to either), and you have the rest of the day to yourselves, what do you? Get drunk of course, so we headed once more to our favourite spot on the beach in-front of the Lucky Tuna restaurant, which coincidently had the cheapest beer in the area, which makes Planty a very happy boy. We spent the next few hours down there, taking a dip in the sea from time to time, while trying not to get battered by the huge waves that crashed onto the beach. A few days earlier, while I well and truly got my arse kicked by a wave, Lotty laughed at me, thinking it was hilarious, well that afternoon it was her turn to get a taste of her own medicine. After negotiating our way over a few big waves, Lotty got taken out by an absolute monster wave, eventually finding bearings I told her quickly stand up, as another slightly smaller wave was quickly heading towards her, but she remained sat down and again, got wiped out by the wave. I managed to give her a quick hand getting back on to the beach while she coughed and spluttered about 5 gallons of salt water out of her lungs and tried to laugh about it, although I don't think Lotty seemed too impressed.

That evening we stayed in the apartment, me playing Nurse Planty and looking after a poorly Lotty, probably the huge amount of ingested salt water had taken its toll. It seems like a god thing that we stayed in, as the weather that evening took a serious turn, one minute we had glorious sunshine and blazing heat, the next it was a monsoon, and soon after I was sat on the balcony watching possibly the most mental lightening storm I've ever witnessed.

In the morning, Nick had found us a pool to practice in, although it wasn't exactly deep, or clean for that matter. A trusty tuk tuk ferried us and our equipment to the site, and we were shown what each part of the equipment did, and how to fit it all together, and how to check that it's all working properly. Shortly after, we got into the water and went through various skills and tasks which were part of the course, and to familiarise ourselves with scuba equipment. When we got out of the pool and stopped for a little break halfway through the day, I noticed I had a rather large segment of the underside of my foot missing, and by that point it was bleeding rather heavily. I'd only noticed 1 or 2 members of staff by the pool that we were using, but when I was sat on the side trying to stop the river of blood exiting my foot, about 20 of them appeared, all curious as to what had gone one. Once the bleeding had stopped, we got back in the pool to carry on our day and found out where I had cut myself. One of the tasks was a basic swim, we had to a few lengths of the pool, and when I pushed off the side, one of the tiles had a sharp edge and devoured part of my foot.

Once we had completed our work in the pool, we all headed back to the dive centre, went for lunch, then returned to take our final exam. I wasn't really looking forward to the exam if I'm honest, after all, I was on my holiday, who the hell wants to sit an exam while on holiday?! Just before we started it, Nick came in with some French bloke called Serge who is a course director for PADI, who began to boast that he'd spent a total of 5 years of his life underwater, and he was a bit of a moron too. Fair enough, having spent that much of his time underwater is impressive, but at that point I'd not spent 1 minute underwater, and if it made me turn out like this arrogant git, I didn't want to. After he strutted off, probably to announce to the entire population of Sri Lanka about his feats, we got into the exam, using our same tactic of what I like to call 'teamwork' and passed the exam.

We had arranged to do our first dive that morning, but Nick and one of the other guys had been out to check the conditions in the water. Unfortunately the visibility It was horrendous, they couldn't see 2 metres in front of them, so the decision was made to cancel for that day and try again in the morning, giving us yet more time to top up our tans and further sample the cheap and cold beer of Sri Lanka.

That night, we'd asked Nick if he fancied going out for dinner with us, we got on really well with him, he'd only been in Sri Lanka for a few days and was still finding his feet in Unawatuna, so he agreed. During the day however, he mentioned that Serge (underwater guy) and his wife were leaving in the morning and wanted to eat with him, and did we mind if they joined us, obviously we agreed, being such nice people and all that, but both Lotty and I were dreading it really. We'd decided to go back to one of the best restaurants that Unawatuna has to offer, it's got a great location right on the beach, fresh seafood and cold beer, perfect really, although when Nick arrived later on to meet us, Serge had wanted to eat in Galle fort, the next town about 10 minutes away. We presumed that he'd already picked one out, so I kindly let Lotty go with Serge and his wife as they had a 'driver' while me and Nick got in my favourite mode of transport so far, the good old tuk tuk. In Galle fort, we realised that in fact, they didn't know where they wanted to eat, they just thought it'd be nice, so we spent the next 20 minutes walking around looking for a restaurant until we finally found one that looked ok....the key word here being 'looked'. As we looked at the menu, I suddenly realised that you can't get alcohol inside the fort wall of Galle, so we all had to settle for soft drinks. Things didn't get any better either, as I cringed watching Serge being a typical arrogant Frenchman and tell the waiter that he wanted minestrone soup, but that his soup mustn't be spicy, because he knows minestrone, I hope by now you're able to paint a picture of the delightful man that we were sat with the night. We eventually ordered our food, and waited, while we were bored to death of Serge and his underwater stories, and his endless reel of photos that he insisted we looked at, while trying to show an ounce of enthusiasm. It's safe to say I was happy when our food arrived as I'd been bored to within an inch of my life, but in the nicest possible way, the food was 'merde', and to make matters worse, the cutlery was the bluntest I've ever tried to use, it felt like I was trying to cut into the chicken with a pillow. We quickly paid for our 'food' and left, deciding to head back to Unawatuna beach for a beer or 2, with Serge and his wife having their driver take them to the dive centre to meet us there, me, Lotty and Nick opting for a tuk tuk. On the way to find one and get some more cash out, we laughed about the disastrous meal, and the stuff that Serge had been rambling on about. Our tuk tuk got us back to the dive centre, just about in one piece, and we set off down the beach to one of the bars. Turns out, the bar we went to was a Jameson's whiskey party, held by 70 guys from Israel who had a party each night in a different resort, so as we sat at a table on the beach, we watched on amused as they seemed to be having the time of their lives. As we were to be doing our first dive in the morning, we only had a couple of beers, then got some sleep.

I was feeling quite excited about getting into the water, the weather was quite good, and we were the only ones from the dive centre going out that morning, so we set up our dive gear, loaded it onto the boat, and off we went. At the dive site, I felt a bit queasy as we got our gear on and did our checks on each other before getting in the water, I whizzed through mine and rolled backwards over the boat, into the water, were my stomach seemed to settle down. I floated about on the surface like a dead fish for a few minutes while Lotty, Nick and one of the other guys from the dive centre joined me in the water, and once we'd been through more checks and procedures, down we went. For the first couple of metres, I went down ok, my ears equalising perfectly, but Lotty seemed to be having a bit of difficulty with hers, so, as the rules state, stop, go up 1 metre and try again, but still nothing. We somehow ended back on the surface and started again, this time Lotty was fine and off she went with Nick, but this time, no matter how many times I tried, my ears wouldn't equalise, I'd go down a few metres and think they were ok, then I'd get the most excruciating pain and have to ascent slightly. After what felt like 1,000 attempts to sort them out, I gave up and waited on the surface with the other instructor. I started to feel a bit sick in the water, and annoyed about my ears, thinking that maybe it would have been a waste of time and money if I can't even go further than 3 metres without crying like a little girl. We floated around for a bit when I felt really I'll and turned around in the water to be sick, which was nice, vomiting a mixture of the spicy tomato crisps and chocolate biscuits I'd had for breakfast. As I was feeling like someone suffering with the plague, I was given some options, either carry on if I felt up to it, or cancel and do 3 dives the next day. I felt really bad, but I had to cancel, there was no way I could have carried on, so we headed back to shore with me feeling annoyed with myself and for ruining the day for the others on the boat.

Back at the dive centre, I went up to our apartment and slept for a few hours before me and Lotty went out to get something to eat, and replaced my breakfast that was floating around the sea in Unawatuna bay. We headed for a place that we'd not been to, but heard loads about, as we walked down the beach, we'd have to walk past an outcrop of rocks that blocks a small section of the beach, but you can still walk past because only your feet normally get wet. The food was average, but the price was very good, it was the cheapest place we'd eaten at in Sri Lanka so far, and feeling a little bit better we made our way back to the dive centre. As we got to the rocks on the beach, I told Lotty to go before me, but she told me to go first, as I get annoyed if she stops halfway through and we get wet, so off I went, got to the other side and waited for Lotty, and this is we're the day went from bad to worse. As she started to make her way towards me, a wave bigger than normal crashed onto the beach, knocking her over, I thought it was quite funny at first, until I realised that her bag that had both of our phones in was also wet. We got to a safe spot and took our phones apart to try and save them, in the hopes that they would work again. Our final day in Unawatuna was to consist of the 3 remaining dives that we needed to do in order to be PADI of course.

I woke up around 4:30 by the sound of a bar next door still blasting out the cheesiest dance music that for many reasons, mainly because it's utter crap, never makes it to the UK. Feeling like a slab of beef that has just been shoved through a meat grinder, I lay there and wondered if in my hungover state, we'd make it through the day. Thankfully for me, we still had a few hours until our first dive, but with so many worries going around in my head, I couldn't get back to sleep, so I played a game with myself called 'name that crap song being played next door'. When Lotty arose from her hibernation, typically she didn't sympathise with me, telling me that it's my own fault I feel rough, but I managed to deflect the blame onto Nick, as I only drank because he did, or at least that was my excuse. After we got up washed and ready, we headed downstairs to witness the most eclectic bunch of people getting ready to go for a dive. This group consisted of a fat Russian guy wearing turquoise speedo's, a very muscular German man whose wife sat and watched as he passionately checked his dive gear, a guy from the UK who seemed to never shut the hell up about his wife in Cyprus and a father with his young son, who were too from the UK with the stiffest upper lip accompanied by an annoying southern accent. Realising that we still had some time as the famous five took their sweet time getting ready, we decided it might be a good idea to take a walk down the street to get some fresh banana's for breakfast and throughout the day. We got to the fruit shop and asked for 10 banana's, while another guy gave us a lychee to try, which was really quite nice. Our guy came back over with our banana's that cost 60 Sri Lankan rupees (around 30p), but instead of 10, we got 18, and to make things better, they tasted amazing.

Walking back along the beach I started to feel better about the day, the sky was clear, the sun was very hot, and the 3 legged dog that wanders up and down the beach was hobbling around without a care in the world, I had a feeling it was going to be a good day, until I got roped in to helping a group of old local guys drag a boat up the beach. I felt obliged to give them a hand when they shouted me over, thinking it was going to be my good deed for the day, but it felt like I was doing all the work, before I knew it I was out of breath and covered in sweat, like I'd just had to sprint 7 miles to avoid being lunch for a pack of cannibals. Nevertheless, that was my good deed done for the day, and we made it make to the dive centre with the famous five nowhere in sight, thankfully they'd gone on their dive, giving us chance to try take 2 of our dives. We all got our gear setup and headed out in the boat back to the same site as the previous day, and quite annoyingly, I seem to have developed a slight but of sea sickness when I'm in small boats that are stopped and rock severely from side to side. Trying to hold back my imminent torrent of vomit, I quickly got my gear on, and got in the water were I quickly felt fine and waited for Lotty and Nick to get in too, and as we started out decent, I was as a happy as a kid on Christmas day when I didn't have a problem equalising my ears, so off we went. The first dive went quite well, we saw a couple of fish, but nothing special until we stopped on the sea bed to practice some of our skills. The skills are things like taking your mask off under water, putting it back on and clearing the water from it, or one that we did was called 'reg recovery' where we had to take our regs out of our mouths, and take the required steps to find it again. As we went to kneel on the bottom, I noticed I was millimetres away from a blue spotted ray, quite a cool little creature, but not one I'd want to kneel on, so we waited for it to pass on and continued.

At the end of the dive, we surfaced on the other side of some rocks that our boat was on, so we simply had to swim over to the other side, seemed a bit of a pain in the arse, but things were about to get very scary, very quickly. As we got to a point were we could go around the rocks, I felt a couple of big waves carry us a bit, and as I was slightly in front of Lotty and Nick, I turned round and saw a massive wave breaking not far from them. I shouted over to Lotty to lookout as the wave was heading right towards them, she then warned Nick and I think I may have soiled myself as the wave came crashing down on us all with only seconds to spare for us to take a deep breath. The wave crashed over us, and dragged us all about 20 metres, I managed to get to the surface gasping for breath and spotted Nick then frantically looked around to see Lotty about 10 meters further away, checking she was ok, she told me another wave was coming, I turned and saw it and made Nick aware of it. Nick shouted over to us to get our regs (breathing gear) in, but I couldn't find mine as it was over my shoulder, so I had to quickly do the reg recovery that we had practiced moments earlier, and like a scene straight out of a Hollywood film, found it and got it in as the wave took us under again. Once again the wave dragged us a few meters, but we were all ok, apart from Nick, whose snorkel and mask had been ripped off by the wave and was starting a new life at the bottom of the sea, I don't think he would have been bothered if it was a cheap and basic mask, but he had some really good gear being a dive instructor, and the mask he just lost had cost him £140..........ouch!

With the waves having enough of treating us like rag dolls, we made it back on the boat, got our breaths back and headed for our second dive, but as we anchored the boat again, my seasickness came out to play. I once again tried to hold back my breakfast banana's wanting to see the light of day once again, but Nick could see that I was feeling ill, and told me just to jump into the sea and he'll pass my gear into me shortly, not before I threw up my banana's into the water I was now floating in. The dive went without any problems, the visibility was a bit crap, but other than that it was ok, and after nearly 45 minutes underwater, we surfaced and headed back to dry land for lunch, obviously one of the highlights of my day. A few hours later, we headed back out to complete our final dive of the course. By now we were pro's at setting up our equipment, and before we knew it, the underwater world was upon us once more. we didn't really see many fish though, and the visibility was pretty much the same as standing in front of a smoke machine, but nevertheless, we had completed all of our required dives to attain our Open Water Dive certification.

So with that done, we climbed back into the boat and made our way back to the dive centre for the last time before heading on to our new town. We left Unawatuna highly impressed by Sri Lanka, the place was amazing, but we also left the dive centre slightly upset too. I had visioned that we would have been instructed by an angry German bloke with a sense of humour that could rival a dead fish, but we had such a good time with Nick, it was more like we'd made a friend, than just done a dive course. We waved goodbye to Nick and his team and got a tuk tuk to Hikkaduwa, about 20 minutes round the coast.


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